THOUSANDS of swimmers descended on the Lake District for the UK's biggest open-water swimming event at the weekend.

The Great North Swim, now in its 11th year, was held at its new Brockhole location for the first time.

Water temperatures reached a balmy 20 degrees, creating near perfect conditions for competitors as they completed a range of challenges, from the beginner 250m wave for anyone aged eight and up, all the way through to the gruelling 10km marathon swim.

Two of those taking part were Ellie Rutherford and her step-dad Andrew Kneale, of Silverdale.

The duo swam a mile together in Saturday’s event to raise money and awareness for a charity 'very close to home'.

Ellie’s mum, Mandy Kneale, is one of 12,000 people in the UK diagnosed with scleroderma - a rare and chronic disease of the immune system, blood vessels and connective tissue.

Ellie said her 'wonderful mother' had been tackling her battle with the incurable condition for several years, adding: “There is only one charity for this disease in the UK and we’d like to spread the word and raise as much money as possible.”

Andrew, who is managing director of estate agents Matthews Benjamin, and Fine & Country Lakes & North Lancs, has taken part in the swim for several years, raising money for Rosemere Cancer Foundation.

This year he and Ellie have raised £960 for Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK, almost double their target.

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), said they had been 'delighted' to partner with Great Swim to stage the 'fabulous event'.

“It’s great to be able to introduce so many existing and new swimmers to the delights and benefits of open water swimming in the Lake District National Park," he said.

Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell tackled the two-mile distance on Friday.

After getting some top tips from Great Swim ambassador, Olympic Silver medallist Keri-anne Payne, she was accompanied on her swim by double Commonwealth Champion Caitlyn McClatchey.

Posting on Twitter, she said: “Just completed my first two mile open water swim in beautiful Windermere. Absolutely shattered and can’t feel my arms, but it’s done and I loved it!”

Many of those who took part raised money for worthy causes close to their hearts, including the events official charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support.

More than 500 swimmers raised an estimated £155,000 for Macmillan across the weekend.

Great Swim Director Alex Jackson said: “It’s been an incredible weekend and we’re delighted with the success of our first event at Brockhole.

“We estimate around 30,000 swimmers and spectators have visited the site over the last three days to enjoy a range of brilliant activities in the sunshine.”